For Immediate Release
Whistleblower at the Inter-American Development Bank Office in Haiti Vindicated by Tribunal
WASHINGTON - Nearly five years after the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, a five-judge panel at Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ruled unanimously to vindicate Mariela Antiga, a client of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a whistleblower who exposed corrupt practices in the IDB office in Port au Prince.
Antiga was a Finance Specialist for the IDB in Haiti, responsible for ensuring that contracts signed by the Bank complied with internal controls. When she first arrived, she flagged an IDB transaction with OAS SA of Brazil for the excessive costs associated with the construction of a road that no one needed. In addition, Antiga noticed that the contract had been publicly announced two months before the approval process was completed. Her warnings – seconded by colleagues – went unheeded, and the multi-million-dollar project proceeded.
"Now, long after Antiga warned about a transaction with OAS SA, the corporation is bankrupt and its bonds are worthless. It is widely recognized as a corrupt enterprise at the center of the scandal engulfing the state-owned oil company in Brazil," said Bea Edwards, Executive Director and International Program Director at GAP. "And the millions paid by the IDB for the 'road to nowhere' in Haiti are unrecoverable."
In the aftermath of the earthquake on January 12, 2010, the IDB became the lead agency disbursing multilateral aid. At that time, the IDB Country Office Director fast-tracked the approval of a housing construction contract for an initial amount of $800,000 with subsequent renewal up to $3.5 million. The contract appeared to benefit a close friend of a high-level Haitian official. The specialists reviewing the transaction believed it to be a risky arrangement for the IDB, and an engineer showed that the site lacked access to potable water.
Antiga reported the deal to the Office of Internal Integrity and expected an investigation. Instead, she was summarily removed from Haiti. The IDB sent her to work from home in Uruguay until her contract expired. To explain her abrupt transfer, Antiga's supervisors vilified her to colleagues and to the IDB's Board of Directors.
This month, however, after five years of litigation, the judges at the IDB tribunal ruled that Antiga was improperly removed from her post and must be paid the amount she would have received if she had remained in Port au Prince.
The ruling, vindicating Antiga, nonetheless shows the serious limits of the tribunal at the IDB. Not a single one of the senior bank managers who retaliated against her has been disciplined because the Bank’s internal justice system does not include a mechanism for doing so. Nor does Antiga receive compensation for the incalculable damage to her professional reputation.
"The IDB spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money concealing corrupt conduct in this case," said Edwards. "But the tribunal ruling, and the regulations under which the judges operate, oblige the Bank to compensate Ms. Antiga only marginally. The whole process exposes the inadequacy of the IDB's whistleblower protections as well as the weakness of the tribunal. Despite the best efforts of the judges, calling that tribunal a 'justice system' is a gross misnomer."
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.